Why Has South Africa Banned Alcohol?
11 months ago
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In late March, South Africa made the domestic sale of alcohol and tobacco illegal nationwide as part of its public health strategy against Covid-19.
A nationwide lockdown, implemented on March 25, allowed most citizens to leave their homes only to buy food, seek medical care and collect welfare grants among other basic necessities. While the rules were eased from early May – including the gradual reopening of some economic sectors – bans on the sale of alcohol, tobacco and many other products were retained, a night-time curfew was imposed and outdoor exercise was restricted to a three-hour morning window.
A ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products, however, has already led to a tax under-recovery of more than 1.5 billion rand (approximately $90 million) last month alone, said Edward Kieswetter, the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service. The commissioner also warned of a major potential boost to the illicit trade of tobacco.
But Charles Parry of the South African Medical Research Council says it’s helped free up to 5,000 trauma beds in hospital per week, and about 15 lives per day.
Growing frustration with a raft of restrictions – particularly tobacco – and the extreme pressure on jobs and revenue in the sector has meant pressure has grown on government to review its lockdown rules and better justify its decision-making. Particular pressure has been put on government to explain why it rescinded its decision to allow the sale of tobacco days after President Ramaphosa announced the change.
Do the benefits of the ban – for health and society – outweigh the costs as well as unprecedented restrictions on citizens’ individual liberties? Reporter Marc Daniel Davies investigates.
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